Indian Slums Provide Pharmaceutical Companies with Endless Supply of Human Guinea Pigs
March 7th, 2012
Few people in the slums of Ahmedabad, India, know more about the supply of human guinea pigs for clinical drug trials than Rajesh Nadia.
When Indian firms working for pharmaceutical companies need test subjects, they often turn to Nadia, who has carved a small niche for himself as a recruiter in the international drug-testing industry.
“Companies call me or send me text messages,” he told “Dateline NBC” correspondent Chris Hansen.
Self-confident and well-groomed with gelled hair and tight-fitting designer jeans, Nadia said he is paid about $12 for every recruit he brings to the three Indian research labs with whom he works
. In a region of western Indian where the average worker earns 50 cents a day, that’s good money.
“I don’t feel guilty,” Nadia said. “I believe conducting these studies is a humanitarian effort. So many people benefit from (the) advancement of medicine
Drug trial outsourcing to foreign countries is rapidly becoming an attractive alternative for U.S. pharmaceutical companies looking to save millions of dollars, avoid regulatory scrutiny and tap into a seemingly endless supply of drug study participants.
But a year-long Dateline investigation into one of the preferred destinations for overseas drug trials, India, raises questions about lax regulatory oversight in these studies, the integrity of some of the companies contracted to run them and the reliability of the data they produce.
Whether the studies are for birth control, diabetes, migraines or high blood pressure, money often draws volunteers into Indian drug trials. And Nadia said that many of his desperately poor recruits are so eager to enroll that they disregard potential risks.
“They don’t regard the smaller side effects,” Nadia explained. “Sometimes, people feel weak or get body ache. They don’t care about these little things because they need the money.”